Five years away

Al-Ahram Weekly , Tuesday 31 Oct 2023

Nour Al-Sherbini, the current world No 1 in squash, is gunning for a gold medal at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics although time might not be on her side

Al-Sherbini
Al-Sherbini

 

 

With her beloved sport now admitted to the Olympic Games, the Egyptian squash idol Nour Al-Sherbini is looking to become the first Egyptian to bring home the gold medal at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, even if it means swapping all her seven World Cup titles for the medal.

“That’s a tough one, but I think so, yes. Winning an Olympic medal, it’s everything. It’s a dream actually. I am super excited, super happy and I have already started counting the years so I can see how long I have and if I will still be there or not, but I will definitely try to make sure that I am still playing,” the 27-year-old told squash.org.

Al-Sherbini is aware of the challenge ahead in the coming five years, with her turning 32 in 2028.

“I wasn’t expecting to stay that long, but now I will definitely try and make sure that I am still playing and still fit.”

According to the official World Squash website, Al-Sherbini, who was world No 1 for 31 months between 2016 and 2018 and 17 months between 2020-2022, is once again currently at the top of the rankings after winning two of the opening three Platinum titles of the season, as well as the Gold-level Grasshopper Cup.

It is hard to imagine an Egyptian team without the renowned “Warrior Princess” at the heart of it.

Al-Sherbini has been an ever-present figure in Egyptian success over the last decade, having been a member of Egypt’s WSF Women’s World Team Championship-winning squad on four occasions, and the successful World Junior Championship team a further three times.

And although Al-Sherbini admitted that she would be extremely proud to add an Olympic gold to this list, she accepted that a lot can still change between now and the LA28 Games.

“It would mean the world to me,” the Alexandrian said. “It’s the biggest stage for any athlete and it was always a dream to play in the Olympics.

“We tried a lot of times [to get into the Olympics] and failed, but now we have finally made it and it will mean everything for me. It would definitely be the last Olympics that I would ever play, so it would be the best ending for my career I think.

“Everyone has been saying that if squash was in the Olympics, Egypt would get more medals.

“But you never think of it like this because the Olympics is every four years and you never know how this year is going to be, how you’re playing, your performance and how other players are changing.

“I think every one of us will do their best, give their everything to get a medal for their country and if we manage to get one, we will be very proud.”

In their decision, the International Olympic Committee noted that squash had enjoyed “spectacular growth over the last few years, especially among young people”, a point which is further highlighted by the fact that each of the top four in the men’s rankings hail from different continents, while three continents are represented in the top five of the women’s rankings.

Al-Sherbini is hopeful that the decision to grant squash a position in the Olympics could help the sport to grow even further and gain yet more attention from all corners of the world.

On why squash suits the Olympics so well, she added: “I think our sport has everything. I think it is very entertaining, it’s just one court, it can be put in a lot of places and amazing venues all over the world, outdoors and indoors.

“You see a lot of perspective when you are on court. There is a lot happening behind the scenes and the game has changed a lot recently. There is a lot more physicality and it is more enjoyable for people to watch.

“It is very easy to set a tournament with a lot of players in, a lot of people coming. It has everything to be in the Olympics.

“I think it will definitely get more people interested in watching squash. Getting into the Olympics will get more people learning about the rules of squash, interested in the players and the tournaments and I think squash is growing all over the world and it is time to get it in the Olympics to get it even bigger,” Al-Sherbini told World Squash.

Egyptian squash players continue dominating the top standings in both the men and women’s world ranking. Among the men’s top 10, five are Egyptians. Ali Farag topped the rankings at No 1. Mustafa Assal, Karim Abdel-Gawad, and Mazen Hisham were ranked 5, 6, and 7, while Tarek Moemen came in ninth. Egyptian brothers Mohamed and Marwan Al-Shorbagi, who are now playing for England, were also among the top 10, with Mohamed third and Marwan eighth.

Four Egyptian women made it to the top 10. Al-Sherbini is at the top, followed by her compatriot Nouran Gohar. Hania Al-Hammami follows in third while Nour Al-Tayeb is ranked sixth.

 


* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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